There is a grim symmetry about the allegations made against a gang of thieves in Germany—a Muslim-led group of thugs who targeted a Christian church for their biggest heist, although whether that was their profane purpose or just a matter of opportunity is not entirely clear.
What’s known is that eight Islamists went on trial a little over a week ago in the regional court of Cologne, Germany, and “they are accused of breaking into schools and churches to send the money they stole to Syria, in support of a religious state of ISIS,” Judge Achim Hengstenberg, the court spokesman, tells The Daily Beast.
According to the general prosecutor’s office, the alleged thieves range in age between 23 and 59, and the group includes four siblings. The putative ringleader, the eldest, is identified by the court as Mirza Tamoor B. and is a German citizen of Pakistani origin. His alleged accomplices Kais, Lazhar, Leila, and Omar B. O. are also German citizens, while Mohammed D. is Pakistani.
Mirza allegedly collected hundreds of thousands of euros for an ostensible charity supporting victims of the Syrian war by putting up websites featuring pictures of children apparently killed in the fighting. He then assembled the much younger members of his gang. It is not clear whether he met some of them on social media while waging his earlier campaign, or knew them through other connections, but their common purpose was allegedly both larceny and jihad.
It is not unusual for would-be holy warriors to use petty crime to support themselves and their operations. Al Qaeda used to instruct its recruits in credit card fraud, for instance. Some jihadists in Europe, dating back at least to the early 1990s, tried to support their operations through armed robbery. But outright burglary is not part of the usual curriculum, because the risks can be high and the rewards fairly low.
In this case, the break-ins, which took place between July 2013 and August 2014, proved to be more symbolic than profitable, as the zealous burglars managed to grab a relatively modest €19,000 (about $21,000).
“Altogether we are talking about nine break-ins, of which some are shops, two or three schools and three churches,” says Hengstenberg. “In most cases it was money being stolen. In one church €30 was taken.” But at St. Augustine Keppel Catholic Church in Hilchenbach-Dahlbruch they broke in two days before Christmas to take chalices and other sacred objects worth an estimated €10,000.
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SOURCE: The Daily Beast
Nadette De Visser